Saturday, March 29, 2008

Zia Pueblo

Zia Pueblo, E. Shije PotI spent most of today at Zia Pueblo on a trip with Friends of Archaeology (a support committee for the Museum of New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies). Zia is located about 60 miles southwest of Santa Fe, with the main village on a mesa high above the Jemez River. It is a "humble" pueblo (according to the governor, Ivan Pino, who personally welcomed our group with a moving speech). Unlike many other pueblos in this area, it does not have a casino/resort on its lands. The pueblo earns income from a pipeline which runs through pueblo lands, a gypsum mine, and through making its lands available for movie filming.

The pueblo originated the Zia sun symbol which is now used as a symbol for the state of New Mexico, and will appear on the New Mexico quarter, which is being released on April 7. ZIa SUn Symbol

The symbol has two parts--the circle and the rays. The circle represents the sun and also the circle of life. The rays which project in the four directions, and each have four lines, represent the four directions (N, E, S, and W), the four stages of life, the four seasons, the four periods of the day, etc. Four is a sacred number for the Zia people--for example, Governor Pino told us they dance for four days at Easter.

We had a unique chance to have a guided tour with Ulysses Reid, the Cultural Preservation Coordinator for the pueblo. He took us to a site of a former pueblo which has completely melted, leaving mounds and scattered rocks where 3,500 people once lived in multi-story dwellings. The amazing thing to me was that you could walk around this area and see bits of pottery all over the ground which date from about 600 years ago. (I guess that's what happens when tourists don't scavenge the life out of a space.)

We also toured the lovely church, built in 1612, which honors Our Lady of the Assumption, and had a chance to meet a number of pueblo artists who make the beautiful Zia pottery. This pottery is red clay with a white slip, and often decorated with a bird motif--a straight-beaked, bent-legged bird. The photograph above is of the charming little pot I bought from artist E. Shije. We saw where the artists dig their clay, just outside the village, and where they gather the ash for the slip. The artist also told me that she paints the designs with brushes made out of the yucca plant.

Then we returned to the Senior Center at the pueblo where the youth group served us a wonderful lunch. (Half of our registration fee for the event went to the pueblo as a donation to their youth group's activities--the kids are saving for a trip to a youth conference this summer.)

For a different kind of Zia art, refer to my post of January 2. The illustrations therein were all done by Velino Shije Herrera (also known as Ma-Pe-Wi, or "Oriole Egg") of the Zia Pueblo.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Will San Ildefonso Women Get the Right to Vote?

San Ildefonso Pueblo, Gilbert AtencioThe illustration, "Women with Water Jars", was painted by Gilbert Atencio from the San Ildefonso Pueblo in the 1960s.

Native Americans--both men and women--were among the last group of Americans to be allowed to vote. The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 declared Indians to be citizens (and therefore eligible), but state laws kept most Indians off the voting rolls for many years. New Mexico was, unhappily, the last state in the country to permit Native Americans to vote (1962).

But despite a 46-year history of voting in state and federal elections, the women of San Ildefonso Pueblo are not permitted to vote in pueblo elections.

Now that might change.

According to tribal councilman Terrance Garcia, who described the pueblo's governing processes to a reporter for an article in the February 22 Santa Fe New Mexican, "San Ildefonso is governed by a general council which includes all male tribal members over the age of 18. That council elects tribal officers and a 13-member tribal council."

Garcia goes on to say: "Most men do consult with their ladies and their women to get a clear grasp of what the pueblo needs. Hopefully, in the next few years, this pueblo will go the route of letting women vote."

Well that's just a teeny bit patronizing, isn't it? It's all about the little women behind the scenes. . . I found it astonishing in this day and age that there were still women in America who were disenfranchised in this way, and that the men of the pueblo could talk about "letting" women vote. Aren't there any women in the pueblo who just want to assert themselves to make this happen?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Santa Fe Sunset

Santa Fe SunsetThis time of the year I am usually on my way home from work during sunset. We get about 300 days of sunshine a year in New Mexico, and nearly as many beautiful sunsets. I'm still not jaded by them--had to pull over by the side of the road and take this photo earlier this week. It's something about the colors and the elongated clouds and the silhouettes and the 180 degree view. (And if you catch it right, you get a few minutes of reflected glow off the mountains in the east--so the whole world is rose-colored.)